There was nothing left of the two great armies that had set out that morning save for a few feathers and twig spears. There had been no victory, no defeat, and no mercy. The land known simply as the Field was gone forever.
As evening slowly crept over the empty battle site, the lone survivor of the two nations crept out from under a pile of leaves. The runt of a mouse known as Wannabe. Shaken from the day's events, the little white field mouse fled into the nearby forest leaving nothing but his tiny mouse tears and the guilt of what had befallen the Field.
The Field had always been a place of tensions between the armies of the Rat King and the Mouse Lord. Grain fed the nations, and he who had the grain had the power. Unfortunately, no one told these two rivals that their land actually belonged to a wheat farmer, but to a rodent, a farmer's field is the same as a country.
Skirmishes, deceptive ambassadors, and sword rattling were a way of life in the Field. Rat knights armed to the teeth with twig spears, bark armor, and acorn helmets clashed with the showers of seed arrows and pebbles hurled by mouse artillery. Despite these occasional bouts, war had never been declared by either side because of fear. Fear of destroying the grain. Without it, they would starve, and both mouse and rat knew it.
Alas, how pride destroys the things we cherish because it is pride that caused the last battle between mouse and rat. In this case, it was the pride of the smallest field mouse who had the biggest dream. Mice don't have names since they lack creativity, but this one did. They called him Wannabe because he wanted to be a soldier rather than a gatherer of corn. All day he would moan, "But I wanna be a soldier!" Mice brains aren't particularly large, but it doesn't take much to figure out that the runt of a stature challenged race should not be a warrior. This resulted in Wannabe being ignored by the other mice and generally caused a nuisance of himself.
One day when Wannabe was particularly annoying with his incessant whining, the other mouse soldiers decided to shut him up once and for all.
"Wannabe, how badly do you want to be a soldier?" asked the first mouse.
"With all my heart and more," squeaked Wannabe.
"I don't know," said a second mouse. "I don't think he has the courage."
"Oh, I do! I do!"
"Well, then prove it," a third mouse chimed in.
"He doesn't have what it takes," snorted the first mouse. "It's not like he'd be able to dance in the Rat King's hall or bring a token back from there to prove it or anything. He's too small."
Defiance flared in Wannabe's pink eyes at the remark. Sticking his whiskers in the air and shaking his paw to the sky, he proclaimed, "I will do what you say, and then you'll have to let me be a soldier."
The other mice agreed. They hurriedly armed him with a raven claw sword and gave him corn to pay his way. Then he was off into the night to make his name known to the world. Soon, everyone would know his name and hold it in reverence. Wannabe could just see the looks on the other mice's faces when he presented his--oh, that was a good point. He'd never actually figured out what he was going to steal. It would have to be something valuable but nothing too large. After all, when you're the runt of the litter you know full well what you can and can't carry. It had to be grand. Gold? Silver? A piece of cloth? What if the others didn't believe it was the Rat King's? Would it have to have the rat crest or a seal perhaps?
Wannabe became so worried about what he would steal that he almost stumbled on the border marker between rat and mouse territory. He had heard tales of this marker but had never actually seen it for himself. Rumor had it that the silver and black column had fallen from the sky in ancient times to warn the old Mouse Lord that he had stumbled into the Rat King's land. This, of course, was nonsense. The marker, or fountain pen as it was, had been dropped last year by the farmer's daughter who'd been sneaking out, but as previously mentioned, mouse brains aren't very big.
With one last, longing look at the marker, Wannabe crept across the border. He silently jumped from shadow to shadow and hid behind rocks when he heard any sort of noise. If there's one thing you know how to do when you're a runt, it's how to hide especially when it comes to rat knights. Duck. Hide. Run, run, run. Duck. Hide. Run, run, run. The little mouse kept the rhythm until he saw the door to the Rat King's hall: a giant mousetrap. The Rat King had a wicked sense of humor.
Wannabe crept silently toward the mousetrap door. There weren't any guards around, but he didn't know what horrors he was about to enter into. What gruesome terrors would those vile rats come up with? Shuddering at the thought of entering a dark, dank, rat-cave, Wannabe slipped inside.
What he found was beyond any of his mously dreams. The corridor sparkled! Light from the matchstick torches reflected prismatic colors, and gold light flecks danced across the silver walls. In utter awe, Wannabe felt his mouth fall open as he stared at his reflection. He had no idea that the rats were so wealthy, or in this case, so good at pilfering aluminum foil and other shiny objects.
Taking a deep breath, Wannabe began to sneak his way down the empty corridor. The hall was eerily quiet. Where was everyone? Were they expecting him? Had they seen him come in? As if to confirm his fears, he heard the sound of marching footsteps coming down the far end of the corridor. He hurriedly jumped through a side door and buried his head in his paws as the footsteps passed the door. There were quite a number of them too. It sounded like everyone in the hall was leaving laughing and carrying on in drunken revelry out into the night.
Fortunately for Wannabe, today had been the Rat King's birthday party. The celebrating had gone on all day long, and every rat was there. After all, it's not every day that rat royalty hosted feasts for their kingdom. The giant birthday dinner had just concluded, and the whole lot of them were on their way outside to dance themselves silly in the cool night air.
As soon as everything quieted down again, Wannabe peaked his nose out of the door. No rats. He gave a good look up and down the corridor and found himself quite alone. At the far end, he saw a grand opening full of light. No sound came from that opening or the room beyond. Determining that the silence meant safety, he scampered the rest of the way to the opening and looked in.
It was the hall of the Rat King and it was empty. All that remained were scraps of grain, cheese, and raisins from the birthday feast. With a heart full of joy, Wannabe jumped in around the Popsicle stick tables and chairs. He danced on the Rat King's cracker box throne, and kicked about toothpick flatware. The world was good. All that he needed now was a token for proof, and the first thing to catch his eye was a silver drinking goblet.
This goblet, or thimble as it were, was no ordinary trinket. It was the Rat King's birthday gift from his queen. She had had it taken from the farmer's wife's sewing kit and loving polished it to mirror perfection. On the side, there was a likeness of the Rat King himself painted on by the finest rat artisan around. It was the perfect token.
Wannabe snatched the goblet from the table, ran from the hall and sprinted down the corridor. When he got to the door, he pushed it open and smacked into a giant rat butt. In a daze, Wannabe fell to the ground still clutching the goblet to his body. Looking down at him was the Rat King who had been dancing with the queen when Wannabe had rammed into him.
"My present?" the king gasped in surprise.
"EEEEEEEEEKKKKKKK!!!!" screamed Wannabe.
Before the Rat King could put two and two together, rat IQ's are about the same as mice's, Wannabe scrambled to his feet and ran. Never in the history of mouse or rat had a rodent run as fast as Wannabe did that night. The rats were too busy celebrating to notice Wannabe, so he made it all the way back to the mouse fortress.
Full of pride, Wannabe strode into the hall of the Mouse Lord holding his whiskers high. All the mice in the hall looked on Wannabe in awe, or at least he imagined they did. He knelt before his lord and held out the goblet.
"Sire," he announced. "I present you with a token from the Rat King's hall to prove my worth to you as a soldier."
The Mouse Lord scratched his white chin with a black paw, as he considered the request. "You are brave, little one, but also very foolish. I fear our enemy will not let this insult go without repercussions." The Mouse Lord was intelligent for a mouse.
"But I wanna be a soldier," he whined, "not a corn gatherer."
"There is nothing wrong with being a corn gatherer," replied the ruler crossly. "Let us hope your pride doesn't ruin us all."
Wannabe left the hall in misery. How could everything go so wrong? He curled up in his pincushion bed and prayed that nothing came of this day.
To his shame, Wannabe's worst fears came true. Despite the best attempts of the royal rat advisors and ambassadors alike, the Rat King declared war on the mice. Such was his anger that nothing could assuage his hurt pride but the defeat of the mice, and the Mouse Lord had no choice but to call up his forces to defend his kingdom.
Not only did war come to the Field, but Wannabe was made a soldier and placed on the forefront of the vanguard. He'd never been so scared in his life. As he marched out of the mouse fortress, he held back tears of regret, yet the mice and rats were about to walk into a bigger surprise.
All of the grain was gone. The farmer had taken up his crop as the two nations prepared for war. Now, there they were. Mouse and rat staring at one another across a vast empty plain. A faint breeze stirred the remaining bits of grain. How were they to make it through the winter? With the threat of starvation on both parties, the two armies met not to fight but to talk.
"Brother mouse," the Rat King said. "I fear we are both doomed."
"True, friend rat," the Mouse Lord agreed. "If we are to weather the winter, we must cease this fight. My people have stored grain through the past year that we'd be willing to share."
"And my people can gather fruit and vegetables from the farmer," nodded the Rat King.
The rats and mice all agreed. For the first time in the history of the Field, a truce was made between the mice and the rats. Both sides embraced as hope sparked with the new union. Wannabe, however, wanted no part of it. He crept past the edge of the crowd and over to a pile of leaves at the Field's boarder. Wriggling underneath them, he hoped the rats and especially the Rat King would not see him. Oh, what a fool he'd been.
In the midst of the planning of the two sides, sharp cries filled the skies. Wannabe's blood froze. Peaking out from under his leaf pile, the little mouse saw the terror attracted by so many rodents in an open field: hawks.
Here's where the story began with Wannabe racing from the field in sorrow. He ran and he ran leaving the Field far behind. Into the forest, he went. When his fear had subsided, the little mouse hid himself under a bush and cried.
"And what are you crying for?" a voice asked.
Wannabe jumped into the air in surprise. He whirled around to see a brown and white lop-eared bunny sitting with him under the bush.
"I-I-I j-just lost my people," the mouse stammered.
"Oh, I saw the whole thing happen." The rabbit gave a little sniff. "Nasty end, that. Especially, since I had an audience with the Mouse Lord to discuss a possible alliance."
"Where are my manners?" exclaimed the bunny. "I am Sir Julius, Ambassador of the Hare and Rabbit Parliament." The ambassador stood up, very tall and regal, before continuing on. "Your ruler asked to send a representative to our parliament, but we require a bit of testing before we would allow a creature as small as a mouse to join our company. You understand, to prove your fortitude."
Wannabe cocked his head in interest. "What sort of test?"
"The foxes, you see, have been our long time enemies. If a mouse could, say, bring a token back from the foxes' den, he could win a place on our parliament."
Wannabe's heart leapt at the second chance. Once again, he put his whiskers in the air and raised a paw as he proclaimed, "I will do as you ask and restore honor to the mice."
...and he did.